A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Virginia man arrested for aiming blue laser at police helicopter

A 45-year-old man from Centreville (Va.) was arrested for aiming a blue laser pointer three times at a Fairfax County Police Department helicopter on September 23 2017.

According to a police Facebook post, “the officers were temporarily blinded by the laser, but there were no serious injuries.” The source of the laser was traced to a vehicle on Manassas Gap Court in Centreville.

Carlos Zapata Rivero was charged with shining a light/laser pointer at an aircraft, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

From WJLA TV and FairfaxNews


Spain: British father and son face €600,000 fine for aiming laser at multiple aircraft

A 41-year-old British father and his 15-year-old son, who were vacationing in Spain, could be fined up to €600,000 (USD $700,000) for aiming a laser pointer at passenger aircraft approaching Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport.

The incident happened around 11 pm on August 8 2017. An off-duty police officer happened to see the pair on a hotel balcony in Torremolinos, a coastal resort town about 13 miles south of the airport.

British father son laser balcony in Spain
Photo from Spanish police showing laser light coming from a balcony

Two laser pens were seized:

British father son laser pens seized in Spain

Pilots of at least three commercial aircraft had complained about being dazzled with green light as they prepared to land.

While the British father and son were not arrested, Spanish National Police called it a “very serious violation” and said the fine could be from €30,000 to €600,000 (USD $35,000 to $600,000).

From Sky News, the Daily Mail and ITV News

Germany: Eight months for 49-year-old man who aimed at aircraft and police helicopter

A 49-year-old German man was sentenced May 31 2017 to eight months in prison for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

In August 2016, several aircraft flying in or out of Berlin Schönefeld Airport reported glare from a laser beam A police helicopter was sent to investigate, and was also hit by laser light.

The unnamed perpetrator later said in court he had not been aiming at anything specific in the night sky, and that he did not see the helicopter.

He was sentenced in Zossen (Brandenburg) District Court; Zossen is about 20 miles south of Berlin.

From Spiegel Online in original German and in Google-translated English. Thanks to Alex Hennig for bringing this to our attention.

Scotland: Man arrested for aiming laser at Police Scotland helicopter

A 41-year-old man was arrested for a September 5 2016 incident where a Police Scotland helicopter was illuminated by laser light. The man was on Trafalgar Street in Clydebank, about 5 miles northwest of Glasgow, when the laser pen attack occurred.

A police spokesperson said “It is an offense we take extremely seriously and people need to realize the dangers of this reckless behavior. Our message is clear, use them and you will be arrested.”

From GlasgowLive

UK: Eight and six month sentences for aiming laser pen at helicopter

Two U.K. men were sentenced to jail on July 22 2016, for aiming the green beam of a laser pen onto a police helicopter.

During the March 9 2016 incident, intermittent flashes from the laser caused the pilot to take evasive action. The search for a missing person was called off, and instead the crew tracked the laser beam to two men in a park in the Newfoundpool area of Leicester. When ground officers apprehended the men, each man said the other had been using the laser.

Martin Gary Jayes, 46, had 71 criminal convictions on his record and was drunk when arrested for the laser offense. He was sentenced to eight months in jail for recklessly or negligently endangering the safety of an aircraft and those traveling within it.

His neighbor Oktawain Kamil Plaskiewicz, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail.

The judge said the men’s actions had “grave risks” and was “life-threatening.”

Jayes’ lawyer said “This offense was committed in drink by someone who knew better. He’s badly let himself down.”

Plaskiewicz’s lawyer said “He knows he’s acted in a very stupid way. There was no intention to bring down a helicopter. If it wasn’t so serious it might have been a childhood prank.”

From the Leicester Mercury. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED Two California men arrested for aiming laser at plane, 1 also charged with drug possession

Two men from Tehachapi, California (about 35 miles southeast of Bakersfield) were arrested May 5 2014 for aiming a laser at an aircraft. In addition, drugs were found at the residence where the laser came from.

The evening before, a pilot was temporarily disoriented by a green laser at about 9:18 pm while landing at Tehachapi Airport. The pilot reported the laser illumination to police. A Tehachapi Police Department officer arrived and was flown around the area by the pilot. The plane was again targeted. The source, a residence, was identified. The plane landed again, and police went to get a warrant to search the residence.

A few hours later, at 3:20 am, police served the search warrant. They found the laser device along with a half pound of methamphetamine worth $20,000, cash totaling $1,400, scales and drug paraphernalia, and an 8 mm Mauser rifle and ammunition.

Arrested were Daniel Roy Mahler, 47, and Mario Guillermo Manero, 52. Both were charged with discharging a laser at an occupied aircraft. In addition, Mahler was charged with possession of controlled substance for sales, and maintaining a drug house.

From Tehachapinews.com

UPDATED April 13 2015: In February 2015, Manero pleaded no contest. [The penalty, if any, was not stated in the news story.] He was arrested again in April 2015 for possession of child pornography, found during a firearms compliance check. A search warrant was obtained and several items were seized to try and identify potential victims. From the Bakersfield Californian.

UK: Two men charged with shining a laser at Humberside Police helicopter

Humberside Police announced April 10 2015 that two men had been charged with a February 11 2015 incident where a green laser light was aimed at a police helicopter flying over the Carnaby area of East Yorkshire. The helicopter team sent a tweet afterwards: “Whilst conducting search [we were] lasered. Speechless!”

Humberside police laser helicopter
Humberside Police helicopter photo of laser glare from February 11 2015 illumination


The men, aged 31 and 46, will appear at Beverley Magistrates Court on May 20 2015 on charges of endangering an aircraft, which has a penalty of up to two years in prison.

From BBC News and the Bridlington Free Press

Australia: AUS $10,000 fine for "stupid idiot" in Mandurah shining laser at police helicopter

A 40-year-old man from Mandurah, Western Australia, was fined AUS $10,000 (US $9,093) on September 19 2014 for aiming a green laser beam at a police helicopter. A news report said that Raymond Alexander Moore “showed his disregard for the court” by shaking his head as his fine was announced.

On August 25 2014, a police helicopter searching for a violent offender was continually blinded by a green laser beam. The pilot took evasive action and “was under immediate distress.”

According to Moore’s lawyer, Moore had been outside with his dog, playing with the laser, when he decided to aim at the helicopter: “He didn’t think it would hit or reach the aircraft.”

When ground officers, directed by the helicopter pilot, arrived at Moore’s home, he said he was “stupid” and “an idiot” for aiming at the helicopter.

Moore faced up to three years in jail and up to AUS $36,000 maximum fine. The judge said “the risk of damage was huge” and that Moore “should be grateful this offence was dealt with in this court” [instead of jail].

From the Mandurah Mail

UK: 16 and 12 week sentences for two Birmingham-area men in "persistent and determined" laser pen attack

Two men from Walsall were sentenced September 2 2014 for up to 16 weeks in prison, for what a West Midlands police helicopter pilot called the most “persistent and determined” laser pen attack in his 14 years with the police.

Claudio Bruno, 48, of Bloxwich and Carl Keates, 23, of Walsall pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft. Bruno -- said to be responsible for 90 percent of the attack -- was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail. Keates was sentenced to 12 weeks.

The two had been drinking when they began to aim a laser at the police helicopter as it was tracking a stolen car. The “repeated and prolonged” attack lasted about 25 minutes, 10 of which was filmed by the helicopter. Video footage showed that both men were fully aware of what they were doing.

Bruno told arresting police that it was a joke, but then said his actions had put the helicopter in danger. He had purchased the laser about six months before to point out constellations in the night sky. Keates said he did not know if the laser would reach the helicopter.

At trial, the defender said that Bruno, in particular, was terrified at the prospect of the court case: "His family say he has not been able to eat or sleep and has wept constantly. He is extremely remorseful, not for his position but for what he did. It was stupid, foolish and reckless."

During sentencing, the judge said "This type of case is one of the most difficult that a judge has to deal with because I have before me two men of good character but each charged with a very serious offence. I accept you are both very remorseful. You had both been drinking and no doubt thought it would be a jokey thing to do but it was not and it could have had catastrophic consequences."

From the Walsall Advertiser and the Express & Star

New Zealand: Man charged with using "light sabre" to illuminate police helicopter 4 km away

An Auckland man faces up to 14 years in prison for shining a powerful laser almost 4 km towards the Eagle police helicopter.

On December 1 2013, Kristian Larsen aimed a blue laser “like a light sabre” from his home in central Auckland towards the aircraft which was taking off from the police helicopter base at Mechanics Bay. The laser beam led police to Larsen’s location, where he was arrested.

The 44-year-old man is charged with endangering transport.

Police said similar lasers are shown on YouTube videos as cutting through plastic and setting fire to objects. An investigation is ongoing.

From the New Zealand Herald

US: UPDATED - Ohio man pleads not guilty to lasing news helicopter; judge orders him to stay away from lasers

A judge has ordered Nicholas Vecchiarelli to stay away from lasers, after the Hubbard, Ohio man pleaded not guilty on February 21 2014 to obstructing official business, a charge that could result in up to eight years in prison.

Vecchiarelli, 46, was accused of aiming a green laser pointer at a news helicopter that was covering a high school football game on October 11 2013. The pilot said he saw the light several times. Police found Vecchiarelli in his driveway with a police scanner and a laser pointer. They said he confessed and gave them the laser.

News reports at the time said he was arrested on a charge of interfering with a flight crew. It is not known what happened to that charge.

He is currently free on $10,000 bond.

Nicholas Vecchiarelli laser
Nicholas Vecchiarelli


From
WFMJ.com and TribToday

UPDATED July 29 2014: Vecchiarelli pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with an aircraft, during a July 24 2014 hearing in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. In return, a charge of obstructing official business was dropped. He will be sentenced later on the interference charge. From WFMJ.com.

UPDATED October 3 2014: Vecchiarelli was sentenced on October 2 2014 to probation for five years, has to do 200 hours of community service, must write an apology to his victims, has to pay a $1,000 fine, has an 11 pm curfew, and must stay out of liquor establishments. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for eight years. From WFMJ.com.

UK: London man arrested for aiming laser pen at police helicopter

A 46-year-old man from southeast London was arrested December 3 2013 for shining a laser pen at a Metropolitan police helicopter.

The crew was able to use video equipment to trace the source of the laser, to a home in St. Paul’s Cray. The man was arrested and admitted using the laser.

He was given a police caution for endangering the safety of an aircraft.

From The Guardian

New Zealand: UPDATED - Man arrested for 'painting' police helicopter with laser

The police Eagle helicopter was ‘laser painted” by a blue laser, early in the morning of December 1 2013. The laser came from the central business district of Auckland. A 44-year-old man was arrested and charged with interfering with the helicopter with reckless disregard for the safety of its occupants.

From the New Zealand Herald

UPDATE May 30 2014: Kristian Larsen was sentenced on May 30 to alcohol treatment, 100 hours of community service, and 12 months probation after being convicted of endangering transport. Police said the pilot was momentarily blinded and had a headache the day after the December 1 2013 lasing. The judge called Larsen’s actions a “drunken escapade.” Larsen said he regretted his actions: “We all make mistakes, and this was mine to make.” From the New Zealand Herald

US: Oregon man, 46, arrested for lasing Coast Guard boat and helicopter

A 46-year-old man was arrested for aiming a laser from his car, towards a Coast Guard motor lifeboat and helicopter that were conducting training exercises in Depoe Bay, Oregon on October 16 2013. The Coast Guard crew who were exposed were prevented from returning to duty until after being medically examined.

Henry Luther Cole Jr. was found parked near a seawall. He was charged with violating a restraining order, menacing, and disorderly conduct. Bail was set at $40,000. The case was referred to the Coast Guard Investigative Service, which is looking into possible federal charges.

Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles southwest of Portland. It promotes its six-acre harbor as the “world’s smallest”, according to its Wikipedia entry.

From the Statesman Journal and a news release from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office

Malta: "Semi-pro" astronomer argues in court that laser pointing is not hazardous

A 48-year-old Malta man is accused of hitting an airplane cockpit five times with a laser beam as it was landing. The pilot reported that he looked directly at the beam which caused a dark spot in his vision, lasting about 10 minutes. The first officer described how the cockpit lit up in green from the beam.

In court in early October, David Camilleri of Rabat was described as a “semi-professional astronomer” who was aiming at stars. He said airplanes were not his target. Camilleri’s lawyer said the case was “being blown out of proportion.” He argued that if lasers were capable of bringing down aircraft, terrorists would use them to cause crashes. He also noted that footballer Lionel Messi was able to score despite having 10 lasers pointed at him during a match.

The trial is ongoing as of October 4 2013, so the outcome is not yet known.

From the Malta Independent

Australia: $10,000 fine after Woodvale man aims laser at police helicopter

Christopher Manning, 40, was fined AUS $10,000 (USD $9,140) on September 4 2013, for causing fear with a laser or light.

On August 3 2013, a police helicopter was conducting a search in the Perth suburb of Woodvale when it was hit a number of times by a bright green laser light. The pilot had “immediate distress” and took evasive action. Ground officers arrested Manning at his home in Woodvale, and seized the laser. He was later found guilty in Joondalup magistrates court.

From WAtoday.com.au: Original Aug 3 incident; Sept 5 fine

Australia: Perth-area man hits police helicopter multiple times, is arrested

A 40-year-old man from the Woodvale area of Perth was arrested August 3 2013 for the offense of using a portable device to direct a visible lasers at or near a conveyance. The Western Australia police helicopter was patrolling Woodvale at about 10 pm. It was hit several times with a laser light. About five minutes later it was hit again. A forward-looking infrared camera was used to locate the unnamed suspect.

From the Daily Telegraph and WA Today

Canada: Oshawa man facing charges (for daytime lasing?) of helicopter

A 44-year-old Oshawa man was charged with assault with a weapon, mischief endangering life, common nuisance and obstructing police after a June 14 2013 incident. The Durham Regional Police Service helicopter Air-1 was hit by a laser beam several times while patrolling above Oshawa.

Unusually, the laser illumination was said to have taken place at noon, according toThe Star.

Crew on the helicopter directed ground officers to a parking lot where Richard McIntosh was arrested. His green Class IIIB laser was seized by police.

From The Star and 680 News

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although The Star stated the incident took place at noon, this could be a misreading of the time on the police report. We have seen other stories where one news outlet said an incident occurred during daytime while others reported (correctly) that the time was, for example, 12:45 AM and not 12:45 PM.

US: Phoenix man gets 90 days in jail for lasing three aircraft

A Phoenix man who bought a laser at a yard sale, and wanted to see how far it could go, was sentenced August 8 2012 for aiming at two commercial aircraft and a police helicopter. Michael Andrew Cerise, 47, will spend 90 days in jail, followed by three years of supervised probation.

Michael Cerise laser
90 days in jail for Michael Cerise


The lasings happened on November 9 2011. A U.S. Airways flight carrying about 200 passengers altered its course by 90 degrees during final approach, to avoid the laser. A Frontier Airlines flight carrying about 130 passengers was also illuminated. A Phoenix Police Department helicopter sent to investigate was hit as well.

Cerise was found at his home with a laser hidden in his couch cushions. At first he said he had not pointed lasers at the sky, but in a later interview said he had aimed it upwards to test its distance capabilities.

Three pilots had temporary partial blindness due to the laser light. Authorities said there had been similar incidents in the area for eight months prior to Cerise’s arrest.

From CBS5, AZCentral.com and East Valley Tribune.

US: UPDATED - Florida man blames stores for selling him a laser pointer

A 44-year-old man was arrested July 15 2012 for aiming a laser pointer at a Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office helicopter. Gary Don Carroll told officers that “he did not understand why the stores would sell a laser pointer if the laser pointer is illegal to use.” The Highland City man was charged under Florida statute 784.062(3a), Misuse of Laser Lighting Devices, which is a third-degree felony.

Gary Don Carroll laser
Gary Don Carroll


From TheLedger.com

UPDATED — On December 17 2014, Gary Don Carroll was arrested for leaving the scene of a fatal crash that occurred on February 22 2014. A 32-year-old man, Eric Wayne Pope of Lakeland, Florida, was killed while riding his bicycle with reflective vest and lights. Analysis of paint chips, completed December 15, pointed to Carroll’s car as being involved. Carroll was also charged with tampering with evidence, for having his truck’s hood and headlight replaced. Carroll has “an extensive criminal arrest history which includes six felony, four misdemeanor, six unknown level arrests, and two failures to appear. He has been in the Polk County jail 10 times before his current arrest.” From the Daily Ridge

US: Jacksonville man arrested for one lasing; may be linked to others

A Jacksonville-area man was arrested June 4 2012 for aiming a green laser four times at a Sheriff’s Office aircraft. In addition, police said there were “several” other incidents of aircraft being lased in the area; one pilot said he had been lased ten times recently.

The pilot located the house and called in ground units. While police were talking to a woman, Tyler John Pennywitt, 40, was seen running through the house. He was arrested while hiding in the shower.

Pennywitt said he had pointed a laser at aircraft “more than a dozen times” but that he did not know the laser could reach to the aircraft. While he was arrested for a Florida felony, misuse of a laser device on an aircraft, he could also face federal criminal charges.

Tyler John Pennywitt laser
Tyler John Pennywitt


From Jacksonville.com, News4Jax.com and ActionNewsJax.com

US: Orlando man who lased 23+ planes pleads guilty; could get 5 year jail term

Orlando-area resident Glenn Stephen Hansen pleaded guilty on May 16 2012 to aiming a laser beam at an aircraft. He had been accused of lasing aircraft taking off from Orlando International Airport (OIA) at least 23 times. However, under terms of his Plea Agreement, Hansen will be charged with just one count of knowingly aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft. In return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not charge Hansen with any of the other 22 potential federal criminal offenses.

Hansen could receive up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, he “agrees to make full restitution to the affected airline companies.” He may not face the maximum, since the U.S. agreed to downward adjustments in the sentencing guidelines in return for Hanson accepting responsibility for his actions.

As of May 16 Hansen has not been sentenced.

The Plea Agreement states that Hansen “temporarily blinded or distracted the pilots of commercial passenger airliners during a critical phase of flight as those aircraft took off from OIA…. On some occasions, the laser beam … caused pilots to lose their night vision and, on at least one occasion, resulted in a pilot’s removal from duty for medical examinations and to recover from temporary vision problems.”

When arrested on March 24 2012, Hansen told FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He said that “he did not know that the laser would harm the pilots or affect the aircraft.”

LaserPointerSafety.com’s original story on the March 24 arrest is here. The full text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Orlando man arrested for lasing aircraft 23 times in 3 months

An Orlando-area man was arrested for aiming laser beams at least 23 times from January to March 2012 at aircraft taking off from Orlando International Airport. [UPDATED - May 16 2012: Hanson pleaded guilty to one count; he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. UPDATE 2 - August 23 2012: Hanson received a six month prison sentence, plus one year probation and had to pay $10,000 restitution.]

Glenn Stephen Hansen laser
Glenn Stephen Hansen


Glenn Stephen Hansen, 49, told arresting FBI agents that he aimed a laser pointer as “stress relief” from “noise anxiety” due to aircraft flying overhead. He had filed over 500 complaints against the noise. He told the agents that airplanes “purposefully flew lower over his house in response to the noise complaints.” He was aware that shining the laser at aircraft was “wrong” but that he “had no idea” that the light could affect the pilots and cause a hazard.

Hansen was arrested March 24 2012 on new federal charges signed into law Feb. 14 by President Obama. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other person being arrested for so many laser incidents. If Hansen is responsible for 23 incidents, that represents 3.4% of all U.S. incidents, and 96% of all incidents involving Orlando International Airport, during the period in question (from January 1 through March 23).

Pic 2012-03-27 at 11.51.04 AM
Hansen was arrested at a home about 7 miles southwest of Orlando International Airport (black square).


The FBI investigation started after a January 8 2012 incident involving an AirTran departure that was 400 feet in the air when the pilot was flashed with a green light. He was tracked for 30-60 seconds, to an altitude of 2000 feet. The pilot took evasive actions including turning off all lights, making a sharp left turn, and asking for a change of course. The pilot told the FBI “he was concerned he could lose vision on the plane.”

The FBI focused on Hansen due to his previous noise complaints. Because of the accuracy of the laser “hits”, they believed Hansen was tracking flights on public websites. His home was placed under surveillance. At about 9 pm March 23 they observed a green beam coming from his house, shining towards an aircraft. (The pilot stated that the light illuminated the cockpit but did not go directly in his eye.) Hansen was arrested at about 4 am the next morning.

From the Orlando Sentinel and the criminal complaint/search warrant. The text of the U.S. Attorney’s office press release is below (click the “Read More…” link).

Click to read more...

US: Sacramento-area man arrested St. Patrick's Day for shining green laser at CHP helicopter

A 49-year-old man was arrested March 17 2012 for aiming a green laser beam at a California Highway Patrol helicopter as it flew over the Sacramento area. The crew was able to direct Sheriff’s patrol units to an apartment in Carmichael, about 8 miles from downtown Sacramento, where David Sughroue was found with a laser pointer.

David Sughroue laser
David Sughroue


He was arrested on a felony charge of discharging a laser at an aircraft. Bail was set at $50,000.

From CBS Sacramento and News 10 ABC

UK: Chard man did not think laser would reach helicopter

Marc Webster was lying in bed at 1:45 am on August 30 2011 when he heard a police helicopter over his home in Chard, Somerset. He picked up a laser pen from his window sill -- he usually used it to point at trees and scare birds away -- and aimed it at the helicopter. Webster later told police “he pointed the laser at the helicopter to see if it would reach, but [he] did not think it did.”

Pilot Paul Maddox was unable to continue investigating a car crime, and broke off his mission. He and two other officers were dazzled by the laser light. Webster said he aimed the laser for less than 15 seconds; the officers in the helicopter said it was around five minutes.

On September 22, Webster pleaded guilty to recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or person in an aircraft. Sentencing is scheduled for October 14.

A news report said Webster, 45, was a drug user: “He said it had been a crazy day after he went out in the morning to score some heroin, but believes he was instead given ketamine, which didn’t treat him well.”

From This Is The West Country

UPDATE October 19 2011: Webster was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for two years, with a two-year supervision order. He avoided jail because he was the sole caregiver for his 16-year-old son.

The sentencing judge said “The message should go out that people tempted to target helicopters in this idiotic and dangerous way should expect a custodial sentence. It’s absurd that these completely pointless toys are used to distract and disable helicopters engaged in the task of serious public good. You’re very lucky that some serious accident didn’t happen as a result of your action. You’re not going to jail by only the thinnest skin of your teeth. I don’t see why your son – in a very difficult family situation – should have that done as a result of your stupidity.” From This Is The West Country.

UK: Pilot dazzled, breaks off police work to arrest 45-year-old

A police helicopter broke off pursuit of suspects after the pilot was dazzled by a green laser pen, early in the morning on September 6 2011. The Western Counties Air Operations Unit was able to guide ground officers in Chard to the location. A 45-year-old man was arrested and charged with directing or shining a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle the pilot. The suspects involved in the original incident, a vehicle break-in, were arrested separately.

From
This Is The West Country

US: Arrest in Sacramento laser incident

On June 7 2011, a Sacramento police helicopter was struck four times “each lasting several seconds”, forcing it to break off a search for a stolen car. The crew used an infrared camera to locate the person aiming at them. 43-year-old Don Watson was arrested in his backyard with a green laser. He was booked on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

Don Watson laser
Don Watson

Watson’s stepfather told Fox40 that Watson bought the laser the day before and was told “Don’t point it at anything in the sky.” The stepfather said of Watson, “He’s an alcoholic … he has no sense whatsoever when he’s drunk.”

A pilot on the helicopter said that a laser will “give you sudden headaches and temporary blindness. It’s very dangerous.”

From the
Sacramento Bee and Fox40.com

US: Texas man arrested after aiming at FBI pilot

On June 2 2011, a Southwest Airlines pilot landing at Dallas’s Love Field reported a laser being aimed at the jet. Air traffic controllers warned other pilots. An FBI agent already airborne responded and began searching for the source. The man on the ground aimed his laser pointer at the FBI pilot, who then identified the location and notified ground units.

A 45-year-old Garland man, Sammy Ladymon, was arrested and charged with “illumination of aircraft with intense light”, a Texas state misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year.


Sammy Ladymon


Ladymon’s house (A) is about 14 miles in a straight line from Love Field (B)

The arrest came one day after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would impose a civil penalty of up to $11,000 on persons lasing an aircraft. There was no immediate word as to whether Ladymon would face the FAA fine or other federal charges as well.

Click to read more...

US: Jurors find spotlight misuser guilty on one charge, not guilty on another

Jurors deliberated for a day in a case where a man aimed a spotlight at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter on September 22 2010. The pilots, who were wearing night-vision goggles, were temporarily blinded by the spotlight. The co-pilot had to remove his goggles and direct the pilot, who was not able to remove his goggles while still piloting the aircraft.

On April 28 2011 the jury found Wayne P. Groen, 42, guilty of incapacitation of an individual during authorized operation of an aircraft. The jury found him not guilty of interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft. Sentencing was set for August 4 2011.

Groen lives near Lynden, Washington about 1/2 mile south of the U.S.-Canada border. According to the Seattle Times, Groen said he aimed the spotlight at the Border Protection helicopter because he was “curious” about their activities, bothered by the noise, and “wanted to alert the pilots as to how close they were to his home.”


Groen lives on H Street Road, which parallels the U.S.-Canada border

The Bellingham Herald reports that some of Groen’s neighbors have been annoyed by Border Protection activities, such as frequent low-level helicopter flights and vehicles traveling through their yards and fields. They “have been tempted” to spotlight helicopters, and felt that threat of a long prison term (up to 40 years) for Groen was excessive. One man quoted by the paper said he was in an old barn at night when a helicopter hovered overhead and the metal roof began to rattle and shake: “Had I had a good flashlight I would have shined it up at that black object to see what it was.”

From the Seattle Times and the Bellingham Herald. An account of the opening day of the trial, entitled “Light v. helicopter -- who felt threatened most?” can be read after registering at the Lynden Tribune; a cached version is available at Google.

UPDATE August 4 2011: Wayne Groen was sentenced to two months in prison, 90 days of home detention, 120 hours of community service, three years of community supervision, and a $5,000 fine for incapacitating an individual during the authorized operation of an aircraft. Groen could have received up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution recommended 10 months; the defense wanted no prison time, one year of probation, 120 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. From The News Tribune

Germany: Man suspected in multiple laser incidents

A 43-year-old man was arrested March 30 2011 after a pilot was “blinded strongly” while landing at the Münster Osnabrück International Airport (“A” below) in South Saxony. A woman in Georgsmarienhütte (“B” below, about 30 km from the airport) reported the man had been using a laser pointer in a residential area. Police found the man with a 15 cm (6 in) laser.


A number of similar illuminations from Georgsmarienhütte had been previously reported. Police said they would investigate whether the man arrested was responsible for the other illuminations as well. The man would be charged with “dangerous interference with the aircraft”, which carries a sentence of six months to 10 years.

From NWZ Online and Bild.de (both in German)

US: 366 days in prison for interfering with patrol helicopter

Robert Duane Nighswander, 44, of Orland, California, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for using a laser to interfere with an aircraft.

On October 21 2009, the California Highway Patrol was conducting a felony traffic stop near Nighswander’s home. Two CHP officers, both licensed pilots, were providing aerial support in a helicopter approximately 700 feet above the ground. Nighswander pointed a green laser device with a range of up to seven miles at the pilots to see if they would react. He pointed the laser at the helicopter no fewer than four times, affecting the pilots’ vision and ability to control the craft. Fortunately, the pilots were affected at separate times, kept the helicopter in the air, and identified the source of the laser.Click to read more...

US: Orlando man faces felony charges

42-year-old Frank Newton Anderson was arrested on Tuesday, April 13 for pointing a laser at an Orange County (FL) sheriff’s helicopter. Anderson faces felony charges and as of April 14 remains in jail on no bond.

Frank Newton Anderson
Frank Newton Anderson

The pilot, Kevin Poston, was patrolling over Orlando when he saw a lighting-like flash. “Almost initially I thought maybe we had hit something”, he was quoted as saying. Spotter Patrick Deans, in the back of the helicopter, said “it was like a green flash right in front of my face, startling.” He saw a vehicle on the ground, in a parking lot. Then the vehicle started to flee, giving Anderson away. He stopped in another parking lot to hide. When ground units directed by the helicopter confronted him, Anderson said the laser (found 100 feet from his vehicle) was not his. However, the laser’s packaging was found in his vehicle.

Anderson appears to be the owner of a Winter Park, Florida security company, Viking Protective Group. When arrested, he was wearing a shirt with “Security” printed on it, and in his vehicle were handcuffs, a mask, camouflage paint, knives, and a Glock gun. He was also ticketed for having an expired license tag.

WFTV reporter Kathi Belich, in reporting the story, said “I hate to use a bad pun, but on so many levels he’s not too bright.”

From
WFTV News. The website includes a video from WFTV’s Kathi Belich

LaserPointerSafety.com news and updates on the Frank Newton Anderson case:

  • Original news item about the April 13 2010 incident is here.
  • December 23 2010 update on guilty plea is here.
  • January 21 2011 update on a possible 10-year sentence for firing a gun at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter vs. a possible 20-year sentence for Anderson aiming a laser at an Orlando sheriff’s helicopter is here.
  • June 4 2011 update on judge withdrawing from Anderson’s case because prosecutors would not drop felony charge is here. (Judge: Anderson is “an idiot, not a criminal”)
  • September 16 2011 update here quoting the Orlando Sentinel as stating that Anderson was sentenced in July 2011 to one year’s probation and a $4000 fine.

US: Arrest for pointing laser and flashlight at police helicopter

A 47-year-old Springfield, Virginia man was charged with pointing a laser and a flashlight at a police helicopter. The incident happened on February 12, when helicopter crew members searching for a suspect in an unrelated case had their vision “blocked” by a green laser and a white light.

Police located the house where the lights were coming from. On March 4 they arrested Raymond Jeffrey Poli. He was charged on March 16 with interfering with the operation of an aircraft, endangering life, and obstruction of justice.

From
MyFoxDC.com

US: 2 Columbus men charged with felonies

Two men were arrested and charged with felonies, accused of aiming a laser pointer at a commercial airplane as it approached Port Columbus (Ohio) International Airport on September 14. They also are accused of pointing the laser at a Columbus police helicopter.

Dennis Smoke, 45, was arrested with Levi Milstead, 19. Each is charged with two counts of pointing a laser at an aircraft and one count each possession of criminal tools. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

More details from
The Columbus Dispatch

US: 3 men charged with felony in Buffalo

Three men from the Buffalo, New York area face felony criminal charges after pointing a green laser at a FedEx airplane and at a local sheriff's helicopter. The helicopter was used to locate the men, Timothy J. Voigt (42), his son Eric Voigt (20) and Bradley J. Campbell (28), who all face multiple counts of felony reckless endangerment. Local officials said the crime "is being reviewed by the FAA and the FBI, with the possibility of additional federal charges."

The helicopter pilot was quoted as saying that if you shine laser pointers at pilots, "there's a good chance you're going to wind up in jail. At the worst, you could bring down an aircraft and kill a lot of people."

Full story from The Buffalo News